When I was a boy in Toronto there were two sure signs of spring: the leaves were budding and the Leafs were falling.
Every Saturday night as March led into April, my dad and I would gather in the basement, turn on our ancient black and white television, and mourn another dreadful season of futility. Mind you, watching the game was no easy chore at any time.
To begin with, mom always commandeered the color TV upstairs for the inexplicable purpose of watching The Lawrence Welk Show. Her TV was hooked up to the antenna on the roof and got great reception. In contrast, the set downstairs only got one channel, the CBC.
Dad could get pretty grumpy about the lousy picture so I’d try to cheer him up with a few jokes.
“Hey, Dad, why don’t we put another antenna on the roof? Then the two antennas can get married.”
“What?” Dad replied irritably trying to tune in the game.
“Yeah, the ceremony won’t be much but the reception will be great!” Dad ignored me.
He was still fiddling with the knobs but it was impossible to tell if we were watching Hockey Night In Canada or Ice Station Zebra.
I thought that another joke would help.
“Hey, dad, did you ever watch the Flintstones? When Fred moves the rabbit ears, they belong to a real bunny. Then they do a close up and the bunny shrugs and says, ‘It’s a living!’ Isn’t that funny?”
Dad didn’t laugh but he did get a gleam in his eye.
He handed me the rabbit ears and sat down.
“Okay, move the ears up, back, to the left, to the right. Eventually he found the perfect spot. The picture was fantastic. The only problem was that I was holding the rabbit ears at chest level facing away from the TV and had to keep perfectly still.
Well, at least one of us could enjoy watching the Leafs lose.
Spring also brought other joys. All I could think of on Saturday mornings was playing baseball with the other kids on the street. But Mom had other ideas. April Saturdays were devoted to washing windows, cleaning up a winter’s worth of dog doodie from the backyard and hanging the blankets on the line so they would smell ‘springtime fresh.’ I’m sure that’s the only reason I never got to play centerfield for the Blue Jays. Instead of spring training I got spring cleaning.
The final act was washing out the kettle. Mom would fill it half and half with water and vinegar and let it sit all day. By evening it was like brand new. On the other hand, for weeks afterward dad would complain his coffee tasted like fish and chips.
I’ve adopted many of my parents’ habits. Every spring I go nuts and scrub every square inch of my apartment.
I also boil out the kettle. Last year I bought a great big jug of vinegar and poured it straight into the kettle. Then, just to be sure, I plugged it in and let it boil.
After that I headed to my room to write my column.
My brother popped in a few minutes later and said something about making an instant coffee. I ran into the kitchen just in time to watch Jay take a swig of cafe au vinegar. I must say he did a really impressive spit take.
Anyway, it’s spring again. My apartment is clean. My coffee smells like fish and chips and the Leafs will miss the playoffs for the eighth time in nine years. It’s nice to know that some things never change.
Ray Smit’s column appears every second Thursday in The NEWS. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.